Though electric vehicles are becoming increasingly in vogue, there’s little substitute for the pulsing growl of a naturally aspirated V8. While V8s aren’t as common as they used to be — forced-induction V6s can now handily compete with the output of an eight-cylinder (I submit the 600-horsepower Nissan GT-R Nismo for your consideration) — you can still find many appealing options on the market, and for not a lot of money, either.
On that subject, Automobile Magazine put together a list of the cheapest plays on a V8 engine. If you immediately jumped to the old stalwarts of affordable horsepower — the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger — you’d be partially right. But the other remaining seven vehicles in Automobile Magazine’s top 10 may not be what you’re thinking. Quite nearly the opposite, actually.
“To see the incredible progress the automotive industry has made, you need only recall that GM’s optional 7.4-liter V8 available in 1974 made just 215 hp, while today Chevrolet offers a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 260 hp,” the magazine said. “For fairness, each particular engine makes the list just once. The Dodge Charger R/T’s 5.7-liter Hemi didn’t make the cut because you can get the same engine more cheaply in a Ram, for instance.”
1. 2015 Ram 1500 Tradesman: $25,365
Ram’s commercial-grade pickup needs to deliver the goods at a price that companies and municipalities can swallow. Therefore, Ram’s 395-horsepower Hemi with 407 pounds-feet of torque can be installed in the no-frills, no-nonsense Tradesman for $690 less than a Ram 1500 Tradesman with a V6, Automobile Magazine noted. The V8 can still be mated to Ram’s old-school six-speed auto, while the new eight-speed comes standard with the V6 (therefore upping the price).
2. 2015 Ford F-150 XL: $28,210
Though Ford’s new flagship pickup is attracting plenty of attention for its higher-end trims, the base XL-clad F-150 is readily available with Ford’s epic 5.0-liter V8 for a fee of $1,595 over the base 3.5-liter V6. In this application, it puts down 385 horsepower, which is routed through a six-speed transmission. And though you get plenty of tow and go, you’ll have to do without most modern conveniences in the spartan interior, which lacks a CD player, power windows and locks, and cruise control to keep the cost down.
3. 2015 Chevrolet 1500 WT: $28,495
It wouldn’t be the holy trinity without a showing from Chevrolet, which comes in as the third least-expensive V8-equipped vehicle. In the bare-bones WT trim (which is notably not the trim pictured above), a Chevy Silverado with eight cylinders will run a hair under $28,500, loaded with the 5.3-liter EcoTec V8 that lays out 355 horsepower and 385 pounds-feet of torque. As for dimensional amenities, this takes into account with a regular cab, standard box, and rear-wheel drive.
4. 2015 Nissan NV2500HD: $29,435
Its looks are beyond utilitarian, but the Nissan NV2500 cargo van is our fourth cheapest play on a V8 engine. For under $30,000, you can get Nissan’s 5.6 liter V8, which is also found in the Jurassic-era Titan, and a five-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels. (It’s practically a sports car. A 317-horsepower V8 and rear-wheel-drive? Watch out, BMW Z4.) It also gets nearly 400 pounds-feet of torque, in order to haul the magnitude of cargo that this barge can fit.
5. 2015 Toyota Tundra SR: $29,610
First, it’s important to point out that the Tundra pictured is far more appointed than the SR model (it’s the Limited Trim). Don’t expect flashy chrome or nice wheels; like the F-150, Tradesman, and Silverado, the SR-tuned Tundra is all business, with a buyer’s choice of the 4.6-liter or 5.7-liter V8 engines (naturally, the 4.6 is cheaper). “Available only in Double Cab versions of the Tundra, the 4.6-liter engine is rated for 15/19/16 mpg (city/highway/combined), which despite its larger size bests the Regular Cab Tundra with the 5.7-liter, which returns 13/18/15 mpg,” Automobile Magazine said.
6. 2015 Chevrolet Express Cargo: $30,550
If the idea of the Nissan appeals to you but you’re a Chevy person, check out the Express Cargo, which comes with a 4.8-liter Vortec V8 that lays out 285 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque. “The cheapest buy-in to this engine is through the standard wheelbase, standard cab Express van,” the magazine said.
7. 2015 Ford Mustang GT: $33,125
It appears that Automobile Magazine bent the rules here a bit, because the 5.0-liter V8 found in the Mustang is essentially the same V8 found in the F-150. However, it has been tweaked and tuned for muscle car use, and here produces a hefty 435 horsepower and crowns the Mustang menu of engines, excluding the GT350’s 5.2-liter unit. The cheapest play on a V8 Mustang is the base GT model, which starts at $33,125 after destination.
8. 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS: $34,500
Close on the heels of the new 2015 Mustang GT is the Camaro SS, which packs a meaty 6.2-liter, 426-horsepower V8 and can be driven off the lot for $34,500. At this point, however, it may be worth waiting to see what Chevrolet does with the upcoming sixth-generation Camaro, which should see less weight, more power, and perhaps a lower MSRP.
9. 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack: $39,490
Coming in at the more expensive side of the muscle car rebirth movement is the Dodge Challenger R/T, equipped with the optional Scat Pack. This delivers a different engine than the Ram Tradesman, utilizing the 6.4-liter V8 instead of the 5.7 liter Hemi. The results serve up 485 horsepower and a 4.1-second zero to 60 time, making it a more affordable — though less insane — stand-in for the more loony Challenger Hellcat.
10. 2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0: $51,500
If you didn’t see this one coming, you’re not alone — we didn’t, either. Though the Genesis is usually found in V6 trim, there’s an optional 5.0-liter, 420-horsepower V8 that churns out enough oomph to get the large luxury barge up to speed in no time. At $51,500, it’s quite a bit more expensive than the entries that started off this list, but when excluding duplicates, as Automobile Magazine did, it leaves a dearth of V8 options in the $40,000 range.
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